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Living with an Alcoholic


Addicts will experience a change in personalities as their brains become more and more damaged. Family members and friends may not be able to recognize these personality changes as signs of addiction, or may just chalk it up to puberty or a “tough spell.”

You’re Not Alone

A recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that nearly 30 million Americans are affected by Alcohol use disorder (AUD). Their loved ones, like you, care deeply about their well-being and want desperately to help them overcome their addiction to create a more stable, secure home environment.

How to Tell if you’re Living with an Alcoholic

While many may imagine living with an alcoholic to be a scene of constant, dramatic chaos, that is not always the case. Many high-functioning alcoholics lead seemingly normal lives; they are social, find success at work, and have good relationships with their friends and family. They are often very skilled at hiding their alcohol dependence from the outside world, and quite often will fervently deny any alcoholism whatsoever. Although their addiction may not be obvious to outsiders, loved ones can look for the following signs to identify AUD in their loved ones.

  • Drinking alone
  • Asking family and friends for money or to cover for their drinking-related absences or mistakes
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
  • Experiencing blackouts
  • Drinking at set times and becoming agitated when their drinking schedule gets disrupted
  • Storing or hiding their alcohol in unusual places

Now What?

Whether you’ve known about your loved one’s AUD for some time, or you’ve only recently determined that you are indeed living with an alcoholic, you may feel overwhelmed with responsibility and concern. Here are a few things to consider as you begin to help them along their journey to recovery.

Take Care of Yourself First

It’s easy to forget your own needs when consumed with those of someone you love. But in order to care for them, you must first take care of yourself. Resist the impulse to feel guilty—addiction is a disease and is not the fault of any single person, least of all you. If you have children, you can help them by making sure they have someone reliable to confide in, and retain a sense of normalcy with fun activities and consistent schedules.


You should never tolerate any level of physical or emotional abuse within your home. Supporting a loved one struggling with alcoholism involves setting healthy boundaries, and most importantly, never enabling their addiction by justifying or defending their actions.

Know When (and how) to Intervene

Staging an intervention may be necessary, especially when the person denies any addiction or their actions are hurting others. Timing is everything; aim for a time when they are sober and calm. The conversation should focus on your concerns and feelings and should aim to accomplish the following:

  • Giving the alcoholic an understanding of how their drinking has harmed themselves and their loved ones
  • Presenting a recovery plan
  • Guiding the alcoholic to make a plan for treatment

Seek Additional Help

There is no shame if, despite your best efforts, the effects of living with an alcoholic are just too much to bear. An essential part of caring for yourself and your family includes using available resources to get your loved one the help they need. At New Choices, we value you and your family member, and are ready to assist them on their unique journey to recovery. Contact us with concerns, questions, and to learn more.

Related: Choosing a Sober Living Situation